Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Ty Madden’s uniqueness doesn’t come from his arm

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — They stood side by side.

The Future, Part 1.

And, right next to him, The Future, Part 2.

Ty Madden — the Detroit Tigers‘ second pick in the 2021 draft — was throwing a bullpen on Thursday, right alongside Jackson Jobe – the Tigers’ first-round pick.

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture these two on the mound in Comerica Park —Madden sooner than Jobe, if only because of age and experience.

As they threw their bullpens, an old Billy Joel song played on a loudspeaker in the background:

“You may be right/I may be crazy.”

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But here’s the thing: I don’t think I’m crazy to think this is the future of the Tigers, playing out in this strange minicamp. You look at either on the mound and you can’t help but think: This is what professional pitchers are supposed to look like.

Jobe is the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, while Madden is ranked No. 5.

“We can’t stop smiling out there because we’re just happy to be here and ready to go,” Madden said.

“What are your impressions of Jobe?” I asked.

“I mean, he’s freak,” Madden said. “The kid is an unreal athlete. He’s gonna do great things in his career, and I’m excited to work with him.”

The Tigers have several impressive prospects. There’s Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, of course, and both could wind up in Detroit this season.

Dillon Dingler is the top catching prospect and the fourth-best talent in the organization (again, according to MLB Pipeline), although his MLB debut isn’t expected until 2023.

Jobe was the headliner of the Tigers’ 2021 draft and has received his fair share of attention.

But Madden has kind of flown under the radar in comparison, especially for the type of talent he has. The Tigers took him with the 32nd overall pick and signed him for an above-slot $2.5 million bonus.

“His arsenal and demeanor are more than enough for him to be a solid back-end starter,” Baseball America wrote. “He is set to make his pro debut in 2022 and could rise up the system quickly.”

‘I don’t get big-eyed’

Madden seems comfortable wearing the Old English D, and comfortable being a pro.

That’s because he has been surrounded by future professionals his entire life.

Madden went to Cypress Ranch High School, on the outskirts of Houston. There, he was part of a rotation with JJ Goss, who was drafted in the first round in 2019 by the Tampa Bay Rays (No. 36 overall) and Matthew Thompson, who was drafted in the second round (No. 45 overall) by the Chicago White Sox.

“Ridiculous,” I said.

“I’ve been around elite stuff since I was 15 years old,” he said. “I don’t get wowed. We were all so competitive. And I don’t get big-eyed.”

No.

He wasn’t big-eyed when he pitched for Texas.

And he wasn’t intimidated to pitch Thursday in front of the Tigers front office, including general manager Al Avila and manager AJ Hinch.

“It was good,” he said. “Felt good to have a little bit of adrenaline with the eyes on you.”

You see that?

In his first bullpen in front of the front office and members of the big-league staff, he loved having all those eyes on him.

Loved the juice.

Which is revealing on so many levels.

MINICAMP DAY 1: Camp observations: (Minor league) pitchers, catchers have fun

A slider with late break

After throwing 113⅔ innings for Texas, he was shut down after the draft.

“We had all the draft guys out here (in Florida) for about seven weeks, eight weeks,” he said. “They built us back up, and we threw a couple bullpens. They took some numbers on us and really got to know the weight room, and then they sent us home for the offseason.”

“Do you think you’ve already improved since your college days?” I asked.

“Yeah, no doubt, 100%,” he said. “This is first time I haven’t had to do school. I really spent my time in the weight room working on my mobility and body. I gained weight, and then I cut down and then slowly built it back up. So my body fat has dropped a bunch. I’ve been mainly working on being more athletic and having explosive movements. I feel a lot better, feel a lot more athletic.”

Madden hit 100 mph in college.

But his fastball is not his best pitch.

“I’d have to say my slider,” he said. “I think it’s the most consistent swing-and-miss.”

“The late break?” I asked.

“That’s what seems to catch people,” he said.

Since joining the Tigers, he has tinkered with his changeup grip, adjusting his finger placement; he is starting to get more comfortable throwing it.

“I have gained a lot more feel with it, and I’m ready to use that pitch a lot more this season,” he said.

Then he said something interesting.

“I want to be my own guy and have my own stuff,” he said. “I haven’t really gotten a great comp yet. So I’m waiting on one of those. But you know, that’s me. I’m unique.”

“What do you think makes you unique?” I asked.

“I think some of my fastball metrics and the angle makes me a little unique,” he said. “Just kind of on a steeper plane, but it still has a hop to it.”

Yes, that might be how it’s explained by analytics.

But I keep thinking about the excitement in his eyes, when he described throwing his first bullpen in front of the front office.

Lots of guys can throw hard. But not everybody loves the pressure.

That’s what makes him unique. That’s what makes him special.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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